Left: Archbishop Nicholas Chia blesses the Marine Parade Family Service Centre on Dec 15. Right: Archbishop Chia gives a red packet to an elderly woman at the party organised by the centre.

WHEN the Marine Parade Family Service Centre (MPFSC) was opened in July, the Church here began a new way of reaching out to people in need, right in their own neighbourhood. At the centre’s blessing on Dec 15, Archbishop Nicholas Chia commended the Catholic Welfare Services (CWS) and Gabrielite Brothers for initiating the project with the government.

The presence of the centre shows that the “Church is showing that it is a light in a place where there is certain darkness”, such as in areas where there are problems with the youths, families and others, he said. He added that with the stresses families undergo today, there is a need for trained people “who can reach out and care for them”.

The centre, located at the void deck of Block 53 in Marine Terrace, is headed by executive consultant Samuel Ng, who was once involved in one of the pilot projects of the Gabrielite Brothers.

The centre’s executive consultant Samuel Ng.At the time when CWS was looking into expanding its services, the idea of a community-based centre was already being discussed by the Gabrielites, Mr Ng said. The two groups came together and with the government subsiding 90% of the set up cost, the centre was realised. 

The Gabrielite Brothers gave professional input in social work during the initial stage of the centre, Mr Ng added.

Planning for the centre started in 2000. Half of the cost of running it is shouldered by the Marine Parade Community Development Council (MPCDC) and the other half by CWS. The centre boasts the first cyber counselling programme for youths in Singapore. Manned by three fully qualified staff and certified volunteers, the cyber counsellors offer advice in real time from Monday to Friday, 2.30-5.30 pm.

Students of St Anthony’s Canossian Secondary School and Serangoon Garden Secondary School have found the site helpful.

Youths can log onto the site by typing http://www.metoyou.org.sg. In addition to the cyber counselling service, the centre specialises in peer work and counselling and offers a day care service for primary school students.

In his address, chairman Gerard Ee said the centre “was created to give a comprehensive range of social services” to individuals and families. The collaboration with the Marine Parade CDC is a brilliant strategy, he said. “The project shows the pro-active stance of the Catholic community in working alongside the government in the areas of family foundation and communal living.

“The centre has extended the arm of the Catholic community in reaching out to the poor and the community at large,” he said. “But while we are trying to achieve effectiveness and efficiency in service, we are also mindful of what our objective is: to be the living testimonies of God and ambassadors of His healing and unconditional love,” Mr Ee told some 60 guests.

Also present at the blessing ceremony were the Gabrielite Brothers, led by Brother Emmanuel Gaudette, and representatives of various- Catholic charitable institutions.

That day, the centre also organised entertainment for some 100 senior citizens from the neighbourhood. Later on, the archbishop and the guests stopped by the party, where the prelate handed out red packets to the elderly.

The Marine Parade Family Service Centre is located at Blk 53, Marine Terrace, #01-227 (tel 445-0100).